Sunday, October 11, 2015

The View From Here # 167: Summer/Fall, 2015

Yorick & Hamlet (L-R) (Photo by Dale Jessen)

I have often thought that life on the road is just like real life, only more exaggerated, with higher highs and lower lows… Having enjoyed both in the course of the last 48 hours, I’m thinking it’s time to gather thoughts and update the blog… I now notice that it’s been quite some time (six months) since the last release... April 7! Those have been some very full months!

I tend to do much more updating on Facebook, so if you’re interested in more live action play-by-play, you might want to check in with me there… (Right now it’s just a personal page, but one of these days, I’m going to set up a performer page and find out how many people “like” me.) 

And, at least one friend (I'm looking at you Bill Webster!) has complained of my loquacious style in these epic tales, requesting that I edit it back to "maybe one or two pages." To which I respond: "Thanks for the input." 

Breakneck Hamlet Costume Design
by Kathleen Conery
I left you in the midst of the breathless Indiegogo Campaign for Breakneck Hamlet, following a flurry of donations in the first week and a drop off in weeks 2 and 3. We were slowly creeping up on $8,000 with just one week to go to hit $11,000. Just in case you didn’t hear me cheering from where YOU were, you should know that we hit that, and have since gone $896 past it! (Donations are still being graciously accepted...!) The collection of “Swag” has continued to expand, beyond “Breakneck Hamlet” stickers, coffee mugs, t-shirts, to, now, DVDs and, now, books! I’ve begun fulfilling on the “Living Room Performances” for those $1K donors, and am gradually beginning to catch my breath, even as the Fall Tour is in full swing!

And, THANK YOU to everyone (150 people!) who stepped up with support, moral, financial or otherwise! Here I am late at night after a full day of awesome fundraising...!

With the Fundraiser in the bag, I turned full-force toward opening night: May 29 at Clockwise Theatre in Waukegan, Illinois (about 3 blocks from where I used to run the Stage Two Theatre Company)! I applied for three fringe festivals, all of which I got into! (Sadly, the Orlando Fringe application deadline had already passed, but I’ve been hearing from folks who “missed me” there this year, and the build-up of anticipation should be that much the greater next spring!)

I tried the show out on it’s first audience… about 10 friends at Deb Pekin’s house. They were a theatre-savvy crowd and laughed a LOT at my Hamlet in-jokes. My performance was breathlessly rapid-fire, and I captured it on video to study the parts that drew responses and examine where I needed to “take my moment.”

And this is the BORING PART...
I was reciting my lines sometimes three times a day in my temporary Chicago basement apartment. Very conscious of the dues that need to be paid to make these things work, I struggle to get my psycho-physical-neurological self into the habit of repeating these things over and over and over again. My magic number is usually three times a day. If there’s a particular portion of the play that I really want to nail down: NINE times a day!

What I do is roughly 5% talent and 95% repetition. Since there are no other actors who quite do what I do, there is no standard benchmark or process for this work; I am inspired by the pianists who work their scales over and over and over again, or the dancers who execute their routines. I work to get the remembering and recitation so entirely unconscious that I can still contemplate the emotional nuances, the physical/vocal dynamics, and the perceived attention/distraction of the audience as I work. And so, I bored myself silly for well over a month!

Meanwhile... !
North Idaho College produced my “The Misanthrope!” Thanks Joe Jacoby!
Cast, Crew and Director of The Misanthrope at North Idaho College

The fundraiser enabled me to hire a publicist for the Summer’s run of shows, and enjoyed nice coverage wherever I went! Thanks Sabrina Wottreng!

Breakneck Hamlet t-shirts arrived! Awesome! You are going to want one for yourself

I did a pre-opening night Arts-Waulk event (in Waukegan, Illinois), performing in many of the galleries in Waukegan… and then this happened (quoting from my Facebook page):

In the midst of one of my Art Gallery previews of Breakneck Hamlet and Shakespeare on Demand last Saturday, a street person carrying a bible and what we assume was a tall can of some kind of alcohol, walked into the gallery, just after I had started the Henry V "St. Crispin's Day" speech. Walking right past the audience which was standing a respectful distance of 10-15 feet away, he got to just a few feet in front of me, staring for about 30 seconds, and then knelt down, leafing through his bible, with his head angled to the ground, waiting. No one, including me, had any idea what he was going to do, and everyone looked to me to see if I had any clue. Eventually, on the line, "For he today that sheds his blood with me... this day shall gentle their condition," I "knighted" him, touching the sword to his shoulder. At that point, he gathered his things, stood up, seemingly satisfied with a successful result, walking back out of the gallery. Everyone looked just a little bewildered. 
Arts Waulk: Performing in front of a local art gallery...

I drove east! 
After a brief stop in Harrisonburg, Virginia, getting fitted for the Hamlet costume, I continued to Annapolis, Maryland, in time for opening night of the world premiere of my The Servant of Two Masters. It was a blast! 

'Servant" Cast, Director and Adaptor

The five star review in “DC Metro Arts” concurred:
There is nothing more enjoyable than a pleasant summer evening, unless, you happen to be at Annapolis Shakespeare Company's 'Comedy in the Courtyard' at Reynolds Tavern [to] take in the madcap, drama-filled spectacle that is The Servant of Two Masters. For a play written originally in Italian and premiered in 1753 (262 years ago!), Carlo Goldoni's play holds up well for modern audiences. This new adaptation by Timothy Mooney is relevant, rhyming and raucous. Mooney's modern word usage and clever innuendos allow everyone to laugh at the jokes... (Winters Geimer, DCMetroTheaterArts)
Soon after, another review at 
...A jewel in the firmament of Reynolds Tavern Courtyard, Director Sally Boyett choreographs a "Commedia D'ell Right Now" that doesn't just tickle the funny bone, it hits it hard and rubs it for you afterwards. Punny to a quip from the couplets to the sound effects... this consummate cast and crew returns us to a form that brings the laughs to the audience firmly in the know of all the inside jokes... This cast runs circles around each other, each one cranking up the volume of performance until the last moment rings out. (Paul Davis,
(Since then, this play has been chosen as “Recommended” for competition in the DC area “Helen Hayes Awards!”)

Before heading west again, I tried Breakneck Hamlet out on another living-room test audience at my sister’s house in Maryland. Again, a terrific response this time from an audience vividly caught up in the internal/psychological character of Hamlet. (His choice to NOT kill the king in Act III, Scene 3 drew much response.)

In the brief time since my stop in Harrisonburg, Kathy Conery had developed her initial stitched-together take on the Hamlet costume to an awesome result which felt very flattering. 

Amber Peterson could not resist working a little Photoshop on this image...

Back in Chicago, feature articles started appearing in the papers, and (rare for me), I got to rehearse on-site for about a week prior to opening the show. And the Clockwise folks actually built a stage floor and set for the show! I videotaped a late rehearsal and clipped together a promo video. A photographer showed up to do some great shots. 

"Get you to my lady's chamber..." (Photo by Dale Jessen)

In addition to Breakneck Hamlet I would be performing a second act: a variation on Lot o’ Shakespeare, entitled Shakespeare on Demand… taking requests from whatever Shakespeare play the audience wanted to throw at me!

Clockwise Theatre windows
And then opening night! From my own remarks posted on Facebook:
The world premiere opening night of Breakneck Hamlet felt really awesome tonight! It taxes me to the limit, and a couple times in Act V (dying as Laertes, and then hopping back up to do Hamlet), I felt like I was on the edge of passing out! Looking forward to upcoming reviews, but in the meantime my dear friends seem to be unanimous in their enthusiasm!
These friends began to post their responses:

Thrilled that I got to see Tim Mooney in his spectacular world premiere of Breakneck Hamlet tonight at Clockwise Theatre in Waukegan! I cried a lot; it's just so inspiring when you see someone who is really living in their purpose. He truly captured the essence of Hamlet in his one-man show; the versatility he displays in playing multiple characters and portraying the story in a clear and interesting way is stunning. He is brilliant and hilarious; during the second half, he asked the audience to call out ANY Shakespearean play and then he did a monologue from that show!
...Tim Mooney as EVERYBODY Shakespeare ever created. WHAT FUN! ... Mr. Mooney digs into the speeches he likes and then fills in the plot on the rest of the interminable stuff with humor, yet never letting the art of the play disappear. Act II is forty-five minutes of interactive magic. Even if you are not a Shakespeare fan, I think you'll be amazed and amused by this simple, black box production, and by Mr. Mooney's incredible skills in both character portrayal and memorization. 
Over the following 24 hours, press response started to come in:
Brilliant... he seamlessly throw in asides, explanations and famous lines, as he whirls to the play's conclusion... (Jodie Jacobs,
Fun, Fearless Shakespeare… Great success… Cliff Notes on caffeine. (Cora Vasseur, Halfstack Magazine)
I started piecing some video together for promotion, including a raced-through capture from opening night (when I still wasn’t quite ready for some of the sudden laughs the show was getting from the responsive audience)!

Shortly after  Breakneck Hamlet opening, Laura Scruggs (quoted above) and her husband Jake, who do a podcast via skype with their friend Bryn Packard (“Are You Famous Yet?”) posted an interview we’d done a couple of weeks prior. They’d asked a lot of the questions that I get asked on a fairly regular basis. I always dread those inquiries, as any serious answer would require hundreds of pages of detail… but finally these answers are collected in a single place, so I can refer people there!

Three generations...!

More friends were coming to Breakneck Hamlet, and for the second performance, I had both Dad and Isaac in the house! One acquaintance who’d never seen Hamlet before summed it up thusly: “That guy had one hell of a rough day! And his girlfriend died!”
The amazing David Paige 
and the awe-inspiring Sue Page 
at my show!
The basement apartment that I’d been subletting flooded! Soaking a lot of my personal papers (essays, letters, scripts, files, promotional postcards…) that I’d been carting around for as much as 35 years (just in case some PhD candidate somewhere is researching their dissertation around the work of Timothy Mooney). I took that as an inspiration to toss some of the less relevant materials out!

With the audience reaction fresh in mind, I redoubled my work on The Breakneck Hamlet Companion, finishing the first rough draft detailing my thoughts on the dramatic structure, the character of Hamlet, the historical issues that a modern American audience might not realize, and about acting this greatest role of all time. (You can see me flashing my early scratches on the first draft in the top video above!)

SJS Mod Squad
I managed to enjoy a St. James grade school reunion! (Go, Bulldogs!) 

The roots of drama run deep among Bulldogs...

Back on the road! Kansas City here I come! 
The Kansas City Fringe Preview event was captured live on film, and I had 2 1/2 minutes to  do the opening of Breakneck Hamlet!

A group had dropped out of the KC Fringe Festival late in the process, and I snuck a second show onto the Fringe schedule: Criteria, A One-Man Comic Sci-Fi Thriller! And, both Criteria and Hamlet got great pre-festival notice from! (Thanks, Sabrina!)  Opening night would feature both shows in immediate succession, and Breakneck Hamlet proceeded to get more terrific response, notably this:

Arguably the greatest play of all time, Hamlet is a behemoth... Mooney provides stage directions; settings; weaves commentary, context, and criticism; and, most importantly, gives prominence to the recurring themes so much so that it’s as if they are lit up in neon lights… The highlight of Mooney’s presentation is his deft willingness to pause a beat, albeit a breathtakingly quick one. These caesuras were used both for comedic timing and to launch into monologue. It was so well done that the comedic beats never failed to earn a laugh and the soliloquies flowed naturally. There were no stage whispers here. His Hamlet is not a wishy-washy worry-wart; instead, he’s a man that sees all possible outcomes of his actions, and the one moment of his inaction causes all the ruin. Breakneck Hamlet is a whirlwind of wonderful. Hold on to your seats and watch a master at his work. (Lee Hartman,
Fringe Volunteer, 
wearing my t-shirt...!
The summer was just getting underway… Another review found both Breakneck Hamlet and Criteria winning honorable mentions in the annual “Pitch” list of favorites:
Don't skip the succinct and engaging Breakneck Hamlet, a fast-moving hour that condenses the great play... an animated and eloquent performance, and amusing as well... The entertaining Mooney also appears in his own play, Criteria... the absorbing, very personal tale of Albert and his experiences on a mission on enemy turf.
Here’s my favorite Facebook story from the Kansas City performances:
Last night I turned the mature woman in the front row into "Queen Gertrude," as Hamlet gave her holy hell. Momentarily, I turned to a sweet little four-year-old off to the side on "To flaming youth let virtue be as wax!" When I turned back to the now visibly shaken "Gertrude" to hassle her for lying "in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, stewed in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty," the woman's husband discreetly got up out of his chair, moving one seat away from his wife as the audience roared.
Twin t-shirts...!
And then, one more review from KC Metropolis, this time for Criteriafrom a reviewer who has cheered on my work several times in past festivals
Along with his signature comedic timing and vigorous delivery, Timothy Mooney is nothing short of an indefatigable creative force. After bringing pieces based on history and Shakespearean literature to previous KC Fringe Festivals, this year he shows off his talent for original speculative fiction. His flair for storytelling and imaginative worldbuilding completely immersed me in this vision of future America, focusing on totalitarianism, identity, security, and class structure... (Kristin Shafel Omiccioli)
When I'm in a rush, with only ten minutes to pack up my show, I generally pull out the bin of t-shirts and coffee mugs and trust people to toss in what they deem appropriate. On the last night of my Kansas City run, somebody tossed a hundred-dollar bill into the bin...! (Sweet...!)

As great as the response was, I have to note that attendance was down for this fringe. I was doing two shows and making less money than Shakespeare's Histories earned by itself just last year. I'm willing to bet that at least part of the problem was that I was, in fact, offering two shows rather than one, and the crowd wasn't being driven to my show with the single firm "elevator pitch" highlighting Breakneck Hamlet, which was, rather, being sold to them in conjunction with an entirely unrelated show.
Hamlet, Fruit Flies & Clowns...

On to Minneapolis!
The Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine had already listed Breakneck Hamlet at the top of "Most Intriguing Titles" this year, and the first review out came from (aka, Pioneer Press) which once listed my Criteria as "Avoid it like the plague," which now listed Hamlet as a "Must See."
Timothy Mooney's tour de force performance clocks in at exactly [an hour], and what an hour it is! Mooney, billed as adaptor, editor, explainer and actor, may have trimmed the bard's best-known play from 32,000-plus words to 9,000, but audiences will still come away with a thorough understanding of it and get a few laughs along the way -- from a work not exactly known for its humor. Be prepared, however. Breakneck Hamlet is truly breakneck, and may leave you panting with exertion as Mooney goes through his paces.
Also, the Minneapolis-oriented "CherryandSpoon" blog reported:
Timothy Mooney delivers an engaging, amusing, and respectful version of Hamlet that doesn't miss a thing, despite being less than an hour long. I've seen Hamlet many times (more than any other Shakespeare play), and yet I feel like I've gained new insights through this production. Timothy is a charming host as he leads us through every scene in the five-act play, sometimes describing the action, sometimes offering historical context, and sometimes reciting lines or monologues from the play. It's super fast but feels like a complete story, and Timothy delivers his adaptation with much energy, excitement, physicality, and a great use of the space at the Theatre Garage. You've probably seen Hamlet before, but you've never seen Hamlet quite like this. (Jill Schafer
Former Fringe Exec Dir 
Robin Gillette...
With a coffee mug...
As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the Minnesota Fringe Festival on-line-review website is amazing. I usually walk away with some 25-30 audience reviews which help me define and promote my shows. This year I came away with 35 reviews, brimming with hyperbole and I will spare you all but one... My favorite this year was from fellow performer, Amy Salloway...
Of the vast Mooney Canon, forsooth, methinks this show be my favorite of all. Cleverly hath Sir Tim compressed, like a grape 'neath stomping foot, the scenes of lesser import, thus carving time to strut & fret & utter the whole of Prince Hamlet's monologues. He includeth the "greatest hittes" of the play's verbiage, such that we, the unwashed masses of audience, might exclaim "What ho! Didst I not memorize that in sophomore English?", & thus feel smart. Tim's asides be mirthful yet unforced; his energy like a monsoon; his acting clear & stellar; &; best of all, his unique narration doth illuminate the story such that even I -- Hamlet-soaked for nigh 3 decades -- didst see things I had not seen afore now, & I LEARNED ANEW. The rest is silence.
Meanwhile a Facebook friend reported:
...Tim always presents Shakespeare in a way where it actually makes sense to the audience. His plays always make me feel smarter when I leave the theater because I just spent an hour with a Master. (Don Stremski)
My arms are too short to box in clowns...

Saying sad goodbyes to my Minnesota friends, the migration to Indianapolis got underway... I've been following the folks from "Box of Clowns" from one city to the next, but this time I found myself pulling up to my billet just behind their car! We were being billeted just across the street from each other, and got together for dinner before the festival got underway.

Those of you who remember the adorable four-year-old who came to see my show two years ago, will be happy to see her back, as a precocious six-year-old this time around.

She actually ran up to give me a hug during the curtain call of Hamlet, reporting that all of that dying in Act V had "freaked me out."

Also, the Mayor of Indianapolis, who had been to see The Greatest Speech of All Time took a moment to pose with me and Anna (Mango”) of Box of Clowns fame. 

Michael S. Drury of Grey Dragon Photography came to my dress/tech rehearsal and shot a bunch of awesome pics from Breakneck Hamlet. I surveyed my Facebook friends to help select the most popular images, which included... 

...and once again, Marcus Fernando worked his visual genius on the perfect composite:

Opening night won a standing ovation in the presence of at least two reviewers in the audience. The visceral reaction from the woman in the front row who I treated as “Ophelia” (actress/storyteller Lou Ann Holman) spilled over to one of the reviewers, as she clung to her two friends seated next to her… which included IndyStar reviewer, Allison Carter, who sent this series of tweets immediately after the show:
Breakneck Hamlet is my favorite show so far and it is EXHAUSTING. 9,000 words spoken in 59:42.
Breakneck Hamlet is basically a madcap Cliff's Notes with high-speed and breezy narration and impassioned monologues.
Breakneck Hamlet is by turns funny, frightening and lovely. How Shakespeare should be taught, really.
When the she posted her actual review, she called it:
...Madcap, high-energy and both funny and affecting take on one of Shakespeare's most beloved plays... Mooney struts and prowls through the makeshift theater... "Get thee to a nunnery!" he bellowed at my friend, prompting her to pull me closer for protection. This is not a show one watches passively. You are roughly three feet away from the actor. He is making eye contact with you... This is the way Shakespeare should be taught -- heard, lived, experienced... And Mooney brings it together with tremendous passion and way more energy than any one man ought to possess. (Allison Carter, IndyStar
(She also went on about my "electric blue eyes flashing," but... you know, modesty...)

The Nuvo reviewer began posting, too! (Indy is the “TwitterFringe”.) He tweeted out:
If you are like me, you've felt frustration with Hamlet for his inability to act at the right time. But Timothy Mooney can act, in a hyper-caffeinated performance that offers great history and insight and runs rings, not just rhetorical rings, around that other performance by Mel Gibson. (Dan Grossman)
Touring Artists' Brunch
(Thanks Tonya Jone Miller...!)

Unfortunately, neither the Indy Star nor Nuvo posted more than a fraction of their reviews in an actual printed paper... an unfortunate trend that is squelching theatre attendance. Like it or not, the theatre-going demographic (especially for classical theatre) tilts older… folks who still read their news in hard copy rather than on-line. Getting an on-line review that never shows up on a physical piece of paper feels increasingly like the tree-falling-in-the-forest.

But, the good response continued… Jay Harvey, an Indy institution (former entertainment editor for the Indianapolis Star) called it:
Astonishing... a concise cliff-hanger [with] distinct acting triumphs... an assured and lively adaptation...
Attendance remained low. In none of the three Fringe festivals were great reviews translating into ticket sales. And, perhaps no review can overcome the initial inertia that attaches itself to the name "Shakespeare," at least in a "fringe festival." There came one night in which I was feeling particularly down about empty seats, particularly as the late show I'd just performed was attended by more artists than ticket-buying patrons. I was coming away with the tiniest payout from the night's efforts.

The next morning, the head of the festival (Pauline) called to tell me that a local arts-funding patron/benefactor/foundation-head had been to last night's show -- loved it -- and wanted to present me with "an award." (At first this sounded vaguely like some sort of plaque or a certificate.) I slowly gathered that this would, in fact, likely be a check, from a very generous foundation. I met with her briefly that afternoon, and ended up with a check for $2,000!

It endlessly fascinates me how often Great Things follow Borderline Despair...

...and Vice Versa.

The final weeks of the Fringe Tour (and some weeks thereafter) were caught up in one more booking campaign, sending out my usual mass of 15,000 e-mails announcing the availability and the success of the new show. This time, however, I was also promoting a special discount. Given my obsessive-compulsive work on funding and performing the new show, I was way behind in getting events lined up!

And so, for this one semester, I've made a significant price cut, at least until the new year comes and my promotional efforts recover their momentum...

And, while I face the challenges of selling full-priced shows once again, I am also looking at the challenges of going not-for-profit. My Box of Clowns friends have gone NFP under the umbrella of a group called "Fractured Atlas." Given the remarkable success of the Indiegogo Campaign, followed by the $2,000 award, perhaps there are better ways of tackling expenses, and easing the costs that get passed on to schools that book the show. (If I were able to cut the cost of the show in half, more or less, might the reach of this program not expand to an audience of double the size...?)

Mooney Reunion...!

I had about two intensive weeks of e-mail campaigning, while family from the coasts came back in for a "Mooney Reunion." I also put together one more performance of The Greatest Speech of All Time for Dad's Retirement facility, where family and friends going all the way back to grade school days showed up for the event.

Off to the races...!
First stop: University of Jamestown (North Dakota)! Quoting myself:
A bunch of firsts tonight! First time performing Breakneck Hamlet for a college crowd! First time performing Breakneck Hamlet for a crowd of over 200 people! First time performing the show on a proscenium stage, where I was up on a stage above the audience. First time in a very large auditorium which sucked my lungs of every bit of oxygen I could pump out. And (fortunately) NOT the first time that the show's gotten a standing ovation!
On south to U-Nebraska-Kearney, where Janice Fronczak, who will be directing my Tartuffe this fall (she did my Imaginary Invalid about ten years ago!), brought me in to give an acting workshop.

Denver...! Where I performed two weekends with Denver's Dangerous Theatre (again). This time I was doing both Breakneck Hamlet and Criteria, but a lack of publicity left attendance much diminished from last year's terrific turnout, and solely thanks to the good graces of a couple north of the city (Felicia and James), who put me up for much of the run, I managed to come away without losing too much money on the proposition.

Between performances, I also managed to finish the latest round of promotional e-mails. The pickings were still slim for the first half of the semester, but bookings have continued to come in for the latter month of the tour, and late October/early November are looking almost jam-packed!

I dropped in at Boulder, Colorado, where the Boulder Fringe was getting underway... crashing their opening night party, surprising some of my veteran fringe friends, and getting surprised, in turn, as, halfway through a conversation with a fringer I'd never met before, she realized that she'd seen me perform Karaoke Knights at the Southeast Theatre Conference (way back in 2006), and that she's been my "volunteer tango dancer" on stage during the "Bite My Tongue" number! (It's an ever-shrinking world.)

This, by the way, was just one of many such coincidental encounters I've experienced in these last several months. In Kansas City I was approached by a half-dozen students (including Janae Trotter, pictured) who had been studying from my book, and recognized me on preview night! In Minnesota, Nathan Kelly Rouse, an actor from North Carolina (who'd been in my Misanthrope with Shakespeare Carolina) posted his excitement about my show. In Indianapolis, Anthony Logan Nathan, an actor attending Breakneck Hamlet, gradually realized that he recognized my voice and my face... Checking his program, he realized that I had written the version of Misanthrope he'd seen me perform on YouTube, and subsequently memorized as an audition piece! And, passing through Sacramento, Meg Masterson, the receptionist at the Sacramento Theatre Company remembered me from a performance at her high school several years back! (Eventually, these things -- I'm only citing the most surprising -- feel less and less like "coincidences.")

I finished up the final promised "Perk" of the Indiegogo campaign: The Breakneck Hamlet Soliloquy Collection, featuring eight soliloquies from Hamlet (six by Hamlet, and two by Claudius) recorded through the summer tour. These special videos are, of course, available for a small contribution... ( )

Utah next!
Utah Potholes

I had been working Lot o' Shakespeare back up to speed in my free time, and did a 40-minute performance for Snow college (my third visit there), immediately continuing north for a performance of Breakneck Hamlet that same night in the living room of my friend, Brenda Larson, who'd given generously to the campaign. It made for a very long, but very satisfying day.

I stayed over with Brenda and her husband, Ed, for an extra couple of days, putting final touches on The Breakneck Hamlet Companion; An Actor's Notebook, and finally hit the "Publish" button on that one! ( available as a never-before offered perk... at

Yes, his heart is literally on, or under, his sleeve...

I swung through Spokane to catch dinner with my former SIU Acting Professor, Joe Proctor, who you may recall used to live in Missoula during previous passes through the vast northern states. Joe has relocated from Missoula to Spokane while awaiting a heart transplant. He is, very literally, carrying his heart around on his sleeve, with an external pacemaker, while he waits, somewhat apprehensive, without a heartbeat, but with great resolve and great spirit.

Following another performance of Breakneck Hamlet at North Idaho College, I was off once more, to a performance of Moliere than Thou in Astoria, Oregon, drilling lines I hadn't recited in quite some time as I drove. Astoria is almost as far northwest as you can go in Oregon, and the bed-and-breakfast that I stayed in was well within shouting distance of a group of sea lions who serenaded me all night long.

(The lions were not sleeping that night...)

Also in Astoria... 
I tried to get a seat, but it was, like, smothering in there!

Rebecca Pierce, the high school French teacher who hosted me in Astoria, was a delight, and she and her husband treated me to a terrific dinner the night before the show. (Rebecca had previously escorted groups of kids to catch my shows at Mount Hood Community College, but I was passing through too early in the semester for MHCC to host me this time around.)

There was a nice, enthusiastic turnout of perhaps a hundred French and Voice students for the show, but it was feeling a little rustier than usual to me... Only now do I look back at the calendar and notice that I hadn't performed Moliere than Thou since February 4 (seven months ago)!
This guy...!

Heading through Portland, after a quick stop at Powell's Books, I visited in quick succession with: two-thirds of Box of Clowns (happy hour, of course), William Luce (author of Belle of Amherst and more), Ruth and Gary (my t-shirt and coffee-mug suppliers), and The Famous Haydell Sisters. I had met the Haydell Sisters in Minneapolis, and Box-of-Clowns-Laura told me they were performing at the Rialto that night (dollar beer night), and I can never resist the opportunity to surprise somebody who probably assumes that I'm thousands of miles away. (It's my own special super power.) We had a brief, fun reunion, but it had been a very long day, and I could only stay for one set before heading off to a hotel. 

Book Proofs!
Following breakfast with my brother Pat in Salem, I pushed quickly south, stopping in Ashland, Oregon, for a visit with the awesome Cil Stengel. On the way, I met up with the manager of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Tudor Guild Gift Shop, who, delighted by the early proof copy I showed her of the new Breakneck Hamlet Companion immediately ordered 25 copies (sight unseen) for her store!

I resumed running lines for Shakespeare's Histories. Given that I haven't performed that one since last March, they needed a fair amount of "waking up" before they would be ready to perform later this month, and I had to check the occasional line in the published version. 

Glancing at the book, I realized that there was something to the printed text I seemed to have missed in my newest Breakneck Hamlet book. Grabbing a hotel in Redding, California, I sat down to figure out that, even though the font size (10.5) was identical in the two publications, my Shakespeare's Histories book used the "Book Antiqua" font for the actual Shakespearean lines, which gave the text greater "weight" or "presence" than the "Times New Roman" font in The Breakneck Hamlet Companion

Rather than order less-than-perfect books for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OCD ALERT!), I dove back in, changing the fonts... which, of course, changed the spacing of the lines... which made the text on the opposing pages line up kind-of-wrong. 

On the opposing pages, the text is generated via Power Point, and imported into the Word document as a pdf... a single "photo" of the opposing page, and the arrows which had been pointing across the span of the pages to indicate the relevant passage that was being discussed on the opposing side, were all now off by tiny fractions of an inch. I spent another four hours lining up each and every one of those annoying arrows, until they were all pointing at the perfect spot. I resubmitted this new text to CreateSpace, and gave myself the afternoon off, treating myself to a movie (The Martian) before heading down to Chico, to visit with my old Coeur d'Alene friend, Marina, and her husband, Steve, where we enjoyed a fun trip to the Sierra Nevada Brewery/Restaurant. 

On to Sacramento...
I always have trouble booking shows on the west coast, if for no other reason than that the venues are so much farther apart from each other. After Denver, I only had four performances lined up, and a couple of those were casual for-fun-and-tips performances... but even those were thinly attended. A couple of Southern California possibilities had fallen through, and several friends who have provided shelter along the way in past years were all out of town. I needed to linger at the Extended Stay America in Sacramento, awaiting a Monday meeting with the Sacramento Theatre Company before racing off, but I was quickly rethinking my path, which was now going to carry me back east as quickly as possible.

Not quickly enough... That Sunday morning, I needed to check on some paperwork I'd left in the passenger seat. It was my second stop down to the car that morning. And while all had been fine, thirty minutes before, this time the window on the passenger side... was smashed in.

Someone had broken into my car in the broad daylight of a Sunday morning... and taken stuff.

Most importantly, my big red vinyl bag was gone. This was the bag that held my Hamlet costume... my Hamlet boots... Hamlet t-shirts... Hamlet coffee mugs... Yorick's skull... The only human being to whom that bag could possibly be of use was me.

Something more seemed to be missing... Oh, ouch... the video camera. That, actually, was probably worth something on the black market.

Maybe an hour later I realized that my big black overcoat (useless on this leg of the tour, so far at least, but probably important soon) was missing, along with my brown jacket.

Between car glass, costume, props, swag, video camera and coats, I'd lost over $2,000 of stuff in a single stroke. (Still working with the insurance folks to see what I might be able to recoup...)

I tried to put a positive spin on the theft on Facebook, but one friend, realizing the impact of the loss, made a kind contribution to the Indiegogo Campaign (as you know, still operational at

I spent the morning cleaning up glass and figuring out how to replace what was missing. And wishing I had accepted the gracious offer of an airbed the previous night in Chico.

Super Low Price Auto Glass did the work quickly the next morning (and for $80 less than the leading company in that field, which neither had the proper glass, nor an appointment available to do the work for another 48 hours).

I managed a rendezvous with the Artistic Director and Educational Director of the Sacramento Theatre Company, who had produced my Imaginary Invalid several weeks before and fell in love with my adaptation. We talked about my one-man shows, my availability for commissioned work, and the other scripts I had available already. 

East of Sacramento from I-80
I pushed eastward at last, with a brief coffee meet-up with David Jensen who had created the awesome "double-headed" Breakneck Hamlet illustration, as well as the “Bowing Moliere” for Moliere than Thou. I hadn’t seen David in person for well over 10 years (he’s living “off the grid” now, in the woods and hills northeast of Sacramento), but every once in a while, he comes up with a genius design for my work.

That night I made it to Elko, Nevada, followed by an extreme day of driving which brought me all the way back to the Denver area, visiting once again with Felicia and James. (I had picked up a copy of “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare” for them while I was at Powell’s in Portland, and was glad to not have to ship the very heavy book!)

East of Salt Lake City, along I-80
One more day of driving brought me across Kansas and back to Kansas City, where Allan and Sandy had their guest room ready for me once again, and I could take a few days of not driving and not worrying about hotels to push my way through the 360+ e-mails in my inbox, visit with a couple of KC friends, and work out the final details on the several bookings that were, surprisingly, still falling into place as the more-than-challenging westward swing transformed into a promising eastward swing to follow. The calendar now has 11 bookings in place yet to come, with a potential couple more that might still jump on.

Hiding out from the rain
I managed to capture five relaxing days in Kansas City while catching this blog up to speed... which took a surprisingly long time, what with typing, retyping (when pasted text looked all wrong on the page), uploading photos, editing and formatting, resizing and rereading... In the course of that time, I managed to catch up on a few other things and enjoy a visit with Alan & Sandy, as well as Anne Marie Kauffman, who suggested stops at a Renaissance Fair and a Karaoke Bar! Thanks!

Starting tomorrow: I resume the road warrior life...!

Oh, and... not to jinx anything but... "Go Cubs."  (That'll kill their chances...)


Discoveries: Life on the road is just like real life, but more exaggerated, with higher highs and lower lows! * The first lesson I get from every first performance of every one-man show I've done is when I can “take my moment.” * I work to get the remembering and recitation so entirely UNCONSCIOUS that I can still contemplate the emotional nuances, the physical/vocal dynamics, and the perceived attention/distraction of the audience. * Rather than doubling attendance, offering TWO shows rather than one, confuses the “elevator pitch” and depresses attendance. * Often Great things follow Borderline Despair... and Vice Versa. * If I were able to cut the expense of the show in half, more or less, might the reach of this program not expand to an audience of double the size? * It's an ever shrinking world. * I can never resist the opportunity to surprise somebody who probably assumes I'm thousands of miles away.
Upcoming Shows: Moliere than Thou, October 15 at Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth, TX; Breakneck Hamlet, October 23 in Newnan, Georgia; Shakespeare's Histories, October 27 at Southwest Georgia State University in Americus, Georgia.

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